I´m setting up a pxe/tftp server. I´m for now setting it up with pxelinux, from syslinux system. I saw this table wich make me doubt about if I made the right choice. I need to know wich of those bootloader is most widely used and can cover all (or the most) of next requeriments:

Boot diagnosis tools
Boot Live OS (linux, etc)
Install OS (Windows, Linux ...)
Boot diskless systems (windows and Linux ISCSI)

Also wish to know if is possible booting from pxe with any boot loader that provides remote vnc access, in order to make full remote OS installations?


pxelinux can chainload just about anything, including the Windows Boot Manager. With its support for a basic menu system, it should be suitable for most use cases.

  • Boot diagnosis tools (Memtest86+, etc)
    • Possible with pxelinux, using the kernel directive
  • Boot Live OS (Linux)
    • Possible with pxelinux, required configuration is distribution-dependent
    • Most syslinux/isolinux configurations are easily adapted
  • Install OS (Windows)
    • Requires composite configuration of Windows PE (including network drivers to access installation sources) and Windows Boot Manager, rather unpleasant
  • Boot diskless systems (windows and Linux iSCSI)
    • Theoretically possible by chainloading gpxe or ipxe, never had any luck myself though
  • Boot unmodified ISO images
    • Possible using pxelinux and the memdisk module. Requires lots of RAM, slow.

A more “modern” alternative is Grub 2.0, but it’s horribly complex.

Magic VNC wrapping is impossible, sorry.

  • Thanks. I need for now to make a network based installation of windows 7. So i supposed to chainload Windows Boot Manager from pxe environment. I tried making winPE iso and it boot but to a recovery console where i need to mount smb share manyally and execute setup. I need it to be easier so it seems that DVD or USB drive is the install media. Can you help with this? I´m a little bit lost. – Abraham May 6 '14 at 17:05
  • The unfortunate truth is that nothing is easy when it comes to networking in Windows PE. Sorry. I haven’t been able to get it to work, my PE environments are offline. Still, there should be many guides available on the net. – Daniel B May 6 '14 at 18:59

NBP: Network Boot Program = tiny piece of code initially transmitted to a PXE booting station in a PXE environment.

PXE Boot Manager: Piece of code generally loaded after an NBP that let you chose among several boot/install options

PXE Boot Loader: Piece of code generally loaded after a Boot Manager that begins the real load of a particular OS install or tool.

Sometimes a single piece of code can have more than a single role; i.e. pxelinux.0 is many times "NBP" and "Boot Manager" in a PXE environment.

As you can see being able to boot/install all what you want it is not just a matter of finding the right "Boot Loader" which is in fact defined by the thing you are trying to boot/install. Pxelinux is an NBP/Boot Manager that can be used to invoke several Boot Loaders from different OSs/Tools/ etc but you need to correctly set-up the environment; thing that is not always easy.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.